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Issue 43 - Where to Stalk red deer...

Scotland Magazine Issue 43
February 2009

 

This article is 8 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Where to Stalk red deer...

In the latest in our series we look at the great red deer of Scotland. Where to see them, where to stalk them and where to eat them.

He’s standing perfectly still at the top of the hill acting as if he thinks he’s invisible.

He’s anything but. He is silhouetted against the dawn sky, forming naturally the perfect clichéd picture of The Highlands.

We’re downwind of him but he has heard something, and his nose is up, as if he’s trying to sense us on the breeze.

We have been edging towards him and several other red deer that seem to have moved on, leaving him independent and strong. Now, though, we stay motionless and watch him in awe.

He is magnificent, a perfect mix of elegance and strength, of grace and virility. He is everything we hoped he would be, and seeing him here in his natural wilderness is the completion of a personal dream.

Then we shot him.

No we didn’t really. That’s not why we have come, though plenty of others do, of course.

Not us, though. Seeing him is enough for us and we watch him for what seems like forever. Then the moment is broken, and he turns and skips away and we hug each other and reach for the whisky flask. It is early morning but we have been up for hours waiting for this and if ever there is a whisky moment this is it.

Scotland boasts a plethora of red and roe deer and the red deer in particular is one of the country’s most impressive and worthwhile sights. They’re not the easiest thing to see though, because despite the large numbers, deer are shy creatures.

Wary too. After all, human contact with them often ends in death. Stalking and hunting them has been an activity across the country for hundreds of years. Killing a beast as magnificent as the red deer in particular, an animal the size of a large donkey, the male of which may have antlers up to a metre long, seems a brutal and indefensible way to pass the time.

It’s anything but. Where once bears and wolves roamed the Highlands and preyed on red deer, today they have no natural predators. Without a serious amount of culling the deer population would run out of control. Furthermore, venison has been a food source as long as human kind has inhabited the country, and today its properties as a healthy and nutritious alternative to beef are well-documented.

That the large estates of Scotland can make some money while culling really is a case of killing three deer with one stone, so to speak.

As a result the stalking of all deer is considered carefully, with each estate working to an agreed quota to make sure that conservation is the most important priority.

Red deer are found across Scotland and in large numbers, but they are shy creatures, hugging the landscape for disguise and protection in groups.

But stalkers and ghillies employed by the large estates are maintaining a skill that goes back through the centuries and with their expertise it’s possible to see, and should you so wish, stalk and shoot red deer. Feel free to contact the stalking companies at any time to discuss your requirements further. Many offer complete packages with other activities and accommodation included, and all will be happy to find the perfect stalk for you, irrespective of experience.

It’s also the perfect way to see Scotland in all its natural glory.

Stalking If you intend to go stalking the season for stags runs from July 1 to October 20, that for hinds from October 21 to February 15.

More general information can be obtained from British association of Shooting and Conservation at www.basc.org Deer watching Early summer is the best time to see hinds with their calves, autumn the best time to see and hear the drama of the rutting season, when stags battle to the point of exhaustion, roaring and fighting for supremacy within the herd.

Deer are best observed early in the morning or late in the evening, and for the females and calves the longer days are ideal.

To find out the best places to see red deer get in touch with Wild Scotland: WILD SCOTLAND Tourist Information Centre, Castle Wynd, Inverness, IV2 3BJ Tel: +44 (0)1463 252 400 www.wild-scotland.co.uk Eating venison In recent years there has been a culinary revolution in Scotland and there are many, many restaurants that serve venison. The dark red meat is gamey and flavoursome, and very low in fat and regarded as healthy and nutritious. It is also very flexible and easy to cook, and can be fried, grilled, roasted, smoked or cut up for stews.

As with other meats the quality of the venison will vary on the age of the animal, whether it’s a hind or a stag, and how long the meat is hung for. There are various cuts of venison.

There are a number of websites offering venison recipes and providing a delivery service for fresh venison meat.

To find the best venison restaurants go to: www.scottishhighlandwebsite.co.uk www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/ food_and_drink Contact Auch & Invermeran Estates, West Highlands www.auch-invermeran.co.uk Tel: +44 (0)1838 400 506 East Haugh Stalking, Perthshire, SE Highlands www.easthaugh.co.uk Tel: +44 (0)1796 473 121 Alladale Wilderness Reserve, NE Highlands www.alladale.com Tel: +44 (0)1863 755 338 South Ayrshire Stalking, Lowlands www.ayrstalk.co.uk Tel: +44 (0)1465 871 393 An Lochan Tormauken, Perthshire South Highlands www.hotels-perth-scotland.co.uk Tel: +44 (0)1259 781 252 Wilderness Scotland, Edinburgh www.wildernessscotland.com Tel: +44 (0)131 625 6635 Strathspey Estate, East Highlands www.strathspey-estate.co.uk Tel: +44 (0)1479 872 529 The Assynt Foundation, Glencansp and Drumrurie Estates www.assyntfoundation.org Tel: +44 (0)1571 844 100 The Gearach, Islay www.thegearach.co.uk/deerstalking Tel: +44 (0)1496 850 120